The mental health of healthcare workers is under assault and in decline each day as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to soar.
From watching dozens of people die alone to working 100-hour weeks for months on end, healthcare workers in Phoenix are burned out, they say.
“The fact that nearly every COVID-19 patient who needs the intensive care unit ends up dying is mentally defeating. Watching patients suffer alone for weeks or months with no loved ones to comfort them is heart-wrenching,” said Andrea Kyle, a registered respiratory therapist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix.
Hospitals ICUs are once again filling up as COVID-19 cases increase in Phoenix. In July, the seven-day average of cases for Maricopa County was around 330. According to The New York Times, now in September the county has a seven-day case average of 1,800.
Brenda Minge, a professional therapist and integrative health specialist, said these healthcare workers are at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and other long-term mental health conditions. The coming months will be a reflection of the trauma they experienced last year.
“It will be PTSD in the truest sense. There will be those flashbacks, and there will be those nightmares,” Minge said.
Depression is also at an all-time high among healthcare workers, saying they do not have time to spend with their families and do things they enjoy. Kyle said that she does not have time to “sleep, eat, or let alone pee” and that addressing her mental health is just not possible right now.
Aneece Garcia, a certified nursing assistant at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, lamented how lonely she felt during the peak of the pandemic. She didn’t get to see her friends or family for months and was heartbroken seeing patients die every day.
This trauma that healthcare workers are enduring results in high turnover rates in nurses and short staffing in hospitals all across the state. Around 48 percent of ICU nurses are debating leaving their careers, according to a nationwide study done by Vivian Health in April.
Healthcare workers are putting their own lives at stake and risk exposing their loved ones to the virus as well. According to the World Health Organization, as of May a little over 100,000 healthcare workers have contracted and died from COVID-19 across the globe due to their high exposure levels.
“I was afraid I was going to bring it to my 10-year-old daughter, so I had to have her stay with my parents for a little bit,” said Jody Geuther, a registered nurse at HonorHealth in Phoenix.
It is becoming more challenging as time goes on for healthcare workers to continue sacrificing their lives for their careers. One in 10 U.S. healthcare workers ultimately resigned since February 2020, according to a survey done in Jan. of this year by Morning Consult.
With short-staffed hospitals all over the city, these workers are exhausted, scared, and begging people to do their part to prevent the virus from spreading any further.
Arizona hospitals are filling up more each week, and it will continue to be an uphill battle for Phoenix healthcare workers who are selflessly fighting to save lives every day.